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Dean Minnich: Mushroom season thriving in D.C.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been caught up in the headlines and press releases that can be like narcotics to one who is hooked on self-aggrandizement and ego.

The slap down he got from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, the other day for having the gall to lecture her on the U.S. Constitution was one of those moments in American history that should show up with clips like the one where the late Joe McCarthy is finally asked if he has any shred of decency left.

His reaction indicates that he actually enjoys being the bad boy of the right wing.

We are in what I call a mushroom growing season in this country. Mushrooms grow in the dark, fed by manure and they have their fans. But who wants a steady diet of mushrooms?

The basements under the dome in D.C. must be full of dank odors of well-fertilized mushrooms. The fungi are fairly easy to grow. You don't have to know much, and the less you shed light on them, the more they thrive.

Problem is, they have little nutritional value, and if you get caught up in the trendiness about all things fed on manure, you have, well, an overabundance of political rhetoric, which in an intellectual context is like having too much prunes and oatmeal in your diet.

Cruz gets a lot of credit from two camps: people who are fascinated by the games within games of politics, and those who think that calling themselves tea party conservatives makes them more principled and, therefore, immune to the general rules of civility. Or even any attempt at intelligent discourse.

They think they're smarter than anyone else.

Somehow, we have elevated expressing an opinion over the virtue of holding an informed thought. As someone was roughly quoted recently, "I don't have to be right; I'm an American. I have my opinions."

Some people participate or use politics as a spectator sport the way others enjoy cage fighting or a good old-fashioned public lynching.

Cruz relishes his role as the darling of the crude and rude; the flinty-eyed outsider who feeds on the hatred from the extremist right, an outsider so far off the charts of rational problem solving that he inspires the kind of people that destroy processes, not repair them.

I see in Cruz one who would exploit ignorance and hatred as a pulpit to advance his own ambitions.

He's not an original. Television reality shows use the same formula. The golden era of professional wrestling and boxing fed the frenzy of fans, NASCAR is as much about trash talk as it is about cars and driving skills. Television evangelists compete with cheesier politicians for donations from the same gullible public.

If American democracy survives, it will not be a triumph of reason, but of marketing skills. Altruism is the first casualty of the next election campaign.

Perhaps we should just forget about elections. We now have the technology to find out instantly what's popular at the moment. Personality and style trumps substance in virtually every aspect of American culture, and you know all you need to know about anyone by the sports team shirt they wear and the bumper stickers on their cars. We can run this country with slogans and money furnished by fat cats. There, we're done. What's on TV tonight?

Cruz is the darling of the right for now, but by tomorrow, we could see a coup with Justin Bieber as the most likely next leader of the free world.

Any country that can produce an aluminum can that turns blue when the beer is cold has to be the best in the world, right?

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